Shape changer challenges tires and tracks

This revolutionary design from Czechoslovakia attempts to turn round pneumatic tires into flat pneumatic rubber tracks

The unique shape-shifting Mitas PneuTrac, introduced in 2015 at Agritechnica, is coming to North America this spring.

The revolutionary design attempts to turn round pneumatic tires into flat pneumatic rubber tracks.

The PneuTrac may look like a round rubber tire from a distance, but upon closer inspection, the footprint looks more like a flat rubber track.

Considered the biggest ag traction breakthrough since rubber tracks, the PneuTrac technology was developed by a Czech company called Mitas, which was subsequently purchased by Trelleborg.

While all the major tire companies were busy over the past two decades developing tires with sidewalls that bulge outward to make a wider footprint, somebody over at Mitas turned their thinking cap around 180 degrees and decided to delve into sidewalls that flex to the inside. Although these sidewalls contort in a most uncomfortable manner, Mitas engineers say their reinforced sidewalls achieve 167 percent better lateral stability.

Whether a farmer prefers conventional round rubber pneumatic tires or flat solid rubber tracks depends largely on soil, precipitation and often on personal preference. Although industry offers a comprehensive lineup of tires and tracks, there has been no in-between product until now.

Trelleborg thinks the Mitas PneuTrac might provide the perfect in-between compromise between tire and track. The PneuTrac is round and rolls easily when not under load. But under load, it flattens out, so the bottom surface takes on the shape and characteristics of a flat rubber track. The tread spreads fore and aft to create an elongated footprint that’s about 53 percent larger than that of a comparably sized tire.

While that may sound like good news to prairie farmers wanting better traction, the bad news is that, for now at least, the tires are only available in sizes for orchard tractors, said Trelleborg spokesperson Jeff Miller in a phone interview.

“For now, the tires are available for 18-inch rim size (280-70T-18) at the front and 28-inch rim size (480-65T-28) at the back. And they fit your existing rims. There’s no need for special wheels,” said Miller.

Asked if the new technology can transfer up to 600 horsepower tractors, Miller responded, “I would love to answer yes to that question, but it’s all being handled out of Italy now, so we’re not sure what the long-range plans are.

“However, I can tell you they really work well on a hill side, because the tires are extremely stable. The sidewalls don’t flex around like you see on standard IF or VF tires. You’re used to seeing radial imprints become wider at low pressure. These imprints become longer. The PneuTrac tires won’t roll underneath or let the tractor lean over on extreme side slopes. The sidewalls are so strong, they change the force of how the tire reacts with the rim to prevent it from rolling underneath. The tire almost looks like it collapses on itself.”

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